Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Rule of Augustine

One Latin form of Augustine was "Austinus"
Augustine of Hippo (354-430), pious man and brilliant theologian, has been mentioned several times before; his influence extended far beyond the 5th century. His writings influenced the founding and running of several orders, including the Dominicans. One such order was named for the man himself, and called the Augustinians, or Austin Friars.

Augustine did not, as St. Benedict did, set out to write a formal set of rules for an order. He did, however, leave a great deal of his written work behind. Three of these writings, taken together, are considered the Rule of St. Augustine.

The first is referred to as Letter 211, written in 423 to the nuns at Hippo (known to the modern world as Annaba, Algeria). It does not offer a list of specific actions to perform in their daily life; it was a more general letter about proper behavior during church services, embracing poverty and obedience, and the duties of the superior of the community. As the Bishop of Hippo, Augustine's letter was taken very seriously and read weekly to the nuns to remind them of their obligations.

Martin Luther was an Augustinian
The other two documents are his Sermons 355 and 356, dealing with poverty. They explain how nuns hand all their personal possessions to the monastery before taking their vows. The monastery will provide their needs, and anything they may earn or be given through their efforts in the future is to be considered the property of the monastery.

These Sermons and Letters were available to everyone over the centuries after Augustine. Benedict is said to have read and re-read Letter 211. It was not until 1256, however, that an actual Order of Saint Augustine was founded, when Pope Alexander IV issued a papal bull doing so.

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